|22 July, 2019

Bahrain ‘can lead region in artificial intelligence’

AI is one of the most talked-about emerging technology in recent years

Bahrain has the potential to become a centre for the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the region, according to a top expert.

AI, which is basically the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, is one of the most talked-about emerging technology in recent years.

However, it is being met with equal parts excitement and trepidation on how it can impact society as it has the potential to change everything in life as we know it.

That is why more investments are needed in centres dedicated to the study and development of AI, said Artificial Intelligence Society president, technology expert and researcher for more than 30 years Jassim Haji.

He added that due to the absence of any AI research and development centre in the Middle East, setting up one is a big opportunity that Bahrain should capitalise on.

“We have a large number of young Bahrainis graduating in information technology, be it computer science, computer engineering, networking or management information systems,” he told the GDN.

“These graduates have the needed passion and are brimming with new, innovative ideas just waiting to become real.

“We have seen many of their creative thoughts being turned into actual inventions in their graduation projects and dissertations for their respective universities.”

He said many of these projects could be patented and others enhanced to build feasible, marketable products or services than can be sold and profited from. “With this potential, these graduates can form the foundation of research and development centres in Bahrain; all these young minds just need someone to nurture them, and these centres are the best way to do so.”

The GDN reported earlier this month that 60 trainees are set to begin courses at Bahrain’s first AI academy.

The Bahrain Polytechnic Academy of Artificial Intelligence is a collaboration between the institution, Microsoft and Tamkeen, and is expected to strengthen Bahrain’s leading position in the region in AI technology.

The academy is considered to be the first of its kind in the region and the Middle East, as it will be an education platform to provide an integrated professional programme based on the enhancement of creativity and innovation in the field of AI.

Mr Haji said before long there will be few things unaffected by AI technology and it is going to change almost every aspect of daily life, which has positives and negatives depending on how it is implemented.

“AI technology is a crucial lynchpin of much of the digital transformation taking place today as organisations position themselves to capitalise on the ever-growing amount of data being generated and collected.

“In general, AI is going to change almost every aspect of daily life; while we will look for ways to make use of it in the home, the technology will also be adopted by private and public sectors,” he said.

However, Mr Haji pointed out that AI proliferation runs the risk of taking jobs away from people, which is something that is already in process and has be checked or else the consequences could be catastrophic.

“Artificial intelligence is rapidly entering our daily lives in the form of driverless cars, automated online assistants and virtual reality experiences but in so doing AI has already substituted human employment in areas that were previously thought to be uncomputerisable,” he said.

“Based on current trends, the technological displacement of labour is predicted to be significant in the future; if left unchecked this will lead to catastrophic societal unemployment levels.

“Although many routine jobs will disappear but equally many news jobs will be created in future, according to researches over 70 per cent of jobs in 2030 do not even exist today,” he said.

ghazi@gdn.com.bh

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